A Playoff's Degredation of the Regular Season

CraytonCorrespondent IJuly 28, 2009

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 23:  Runningback Ian Johnson #41 of the Boise State Broncos dives for the endzone pilon against the defense of Cornerback Rafael Priest #10 of TCU during the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 23, 2008 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

A common argument against a playoff system for college football is that it lessens the value of the regular season. This would be especially true under a larger 16-team playoff format. The argument follows that if a team is virtually assured of a playoff spot then they can perform poorly in their remaining game(s) with no playoff ramifications.

This phenomena is commonly cited in the NFL, when sometimes a team may sit out starters on the last game of the regular season. Sometimes a team may lose two straight games after clinching a playoff berth. Both of these aspects of the NFL are greatly unwelcome in College Football, yet a playoff would seemingly encourage those actions.

A prime example would be a team like Boise State who, even with two games remaining on their schedule, could clinched the WAC Championship and a spot in the playoff. What then would the Broncos be playing for in those last games?

The answer is that they'd be playing for the same thing whether a playoff exists or not. Why do teams which may be 8-3 with the National Title no longer on the line continue to play strong?

In the NFL, there sometimes are incentives to play hard the last game. A first-round bye or home field game may be on the line. With 16-game schedules, however, those incentives are often locked up prior to the final week, but in College Football obtaining a first round home game would require effort each of the last weeks.

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Beyond the rhetoric concerning the degradation of the regular season, we will examine the implications of a playoff on last year's college football action. Would we see more ho-hum games, or more exciting games?

This is the playoff format being used and we will look at last year with each team having at most their final game remaining. The incentives built into the system are home game priority for teams winning their conference as well as having the last week of the season be the Thanksgiving Rivalry Weekend.

If you click on ahead, we will go through the potential bracket.

(Note, the Oregon State – Oregon and Georgia Tech – Georgia games become humongous with Regional as well as National ramifications.)

West Region

USC (No. 5 BCS)

USC clinched a playoff spot with their victory over Notre Dame last week. This week's rivalry game against the UCLA Bruins has home field advantage on the line.

If the Trojans lose then they will probably end up a No. 4 seed, traveling to Utah for their first playoff game. USC also does not have the Pac-10 under wraps yet and needs a loss by Oregon State to insure a No. 1 seed in the West Region.

Utah (No. 6 BCS)

Utah concluded their undefeated season last week, wrapping up a conference championship with a victory over the BYU Cougars. The Utes are assured of a home game in the first round of the playoffs and could move up to the No. 1 seed in the West with a USC loss or Oregon State win.

Boise State (No. 9 BCS)

Boise State locked up the WAC last week with a victory over Nevada. A win this week against Air Force serves only to keep the Broncos out of the No. 4 seed. A victory combined with a USC loss, however, could propel Boise State over USC into the No. 2 seed with a home game in the first round.

TCU (No. 11 BCS)

TCU is currently sitting just outside the last at large spot at 10-2. If Oregon State and Georgia lose this week then TCU will squeak into the playoffs. If USC also losses then the Horned Frogs could find themselves as the No. 3 seed in the West.

Oregon State (No. 17 BCS)

All Oregon State needs to do is defeat their rivals, the Oregon Ducks, to make the playoffs. Oregon State will most likely get only a No. 4 seed as long as Boise State stays undefeated. But with a USC loss the Beavers could find themselves with the No. 2 seed and a first round playoff game.

Conference USA Champion

Rice, Tulsa, and Houston are all currently tied for the Conference USA championship. If TCU does not obtain an at large bid and Oregon State losses then the Conference USA Champion will play in the West region.

South Region

Texas (No. 2 BCS)

Texas has the upper-hand over Oklahoma going into the final game against rival Texas A&M. The Longhorns have virtually assured themselves a trip to the playoffs. A victory against the Aggies will insure a home field game in the playoffs. It will be up to the voters whether Texas stays ranked above Oklahoma.

Oklahoma (No. 3 BCS)

Oklahoma most likely clinched a playoff spot with their victory last week. This week, the Sooners will fight for a home playoff game and potentially the No. 1 seed against the rival Cowboys from Oklahoma State.

Texas Tech (No. 7 BCS)

Texas Tech will be playing for a playoff spot this week against Baylor. The Red Raiders are currently slotted for the No. 3 seed but could move up if either Oklahoma or Texas slip.

Oklahoma State (No. 12 BCS)

Because only three teams from a single conference may gain entry to the playoffs the Cowboys are on the outside looking in. However, their marquee game against No. 4 Oklahoma could propel the Cowboys past the Sooners or a Texas Tech team into the No. 3 seed.

Missouri (No. 13 BCS)

Missouri likewise needs help to make the playoffs. Their best chance at a playoff spot would be a victory over Kansas this week combined with a Texas Tech loss to Baylor.

Houston (6-1 Conference USA)

Houston is in the driver's seat for the Conference USA title. A victory over Rice will send Houston to the playoffs, most likely as a No. 4 seed in the South Region.

Tulsa (6-1 Conference USA)

Tulsa got off to an 8-0 start but needs a victory against Marshall this week and a Houston loss to clinch the Conference USA title.

Rice (6-1 Conference USA)

Rice is the longshot for the Conference USA title and needs a victory over Houston and a Tulsa loss to make it to the playoffs.

Sun Belt Champion

The Sun Belt champion may play in the South Region if the Conference USA Champion plays in the West Region.

East Region

Alabama (No. 1 BCS)

Alabama is the sole remaining undefeated BCS team. They are currently slotted for the No. 1 seed but will slip to No. 2 with a loss to their rival, the Auburn Tigers, and a Florida win. Alabama would then be in danger of falling to the No. 3 seed if Georgia Tech defeats Georgia.

Florida (No. 4 BCS)

Florida has almost clinched a playoff berth and can clinch the top seed in the South with a victory over rival Florida State and an Alabama loss. Otherwise, a Georgia loss to Georgia Tech will send the Gators on the road.

A loss to Florida State and the Gators falling below TCU at the No. 12 spot would eliminate them from playoff contention.

Georgia (No. 11 BCS)

Georgia will gain entrance into the playoffs as the final at large team with a victory over rival Georgia Tech. Georgia will gain the No. 3 seed but could vault into the No. 2 spot with a Florida loss.

Florida State (No. 20 BCS)

Florida State is finished with ACC play and can gain the conference title in a three-way tie with Georgia Tech and either Virginia Tech or Boston College. A win against Florida will most likely break the tie and send the Seminoles to the No. 3 seed, or No. 2 if Georgia loses.

Boston College (No. 21 BCS)

Boston College needs help for the ACC Championship. A victory over Maryland, and losses by Virginia Tech, Florida State, and Georgia Tech are all required for a No. 4 seed.

Georgia Tech (No. 22 BCS)

Georgia Tech is in the ACC driver's seat, owning all two and four team tie-breakers. The Yellow Jackets can clinch the fourth seed with a BC or VT loss (not both) or the No. 2 seed with a victory against rival Georgia and an FSU loss.

Virginia Tech (4-3 ACC)

Like Boston College, Virginia Tech needs help for the ACC Championship. A victory over Maryland, and losses by Boston College, Florida State, and Georgia Tech are all required for a No. 4 seed.

Troy (5-1 Sun Belt Conference)

Troy clinched the Sun Belt conference last week with one game remaining on the schedule. Troy will play as the No. 4 seed in the East Region if Georgia loses.

North Region

Penn State (No. 8 BCS)

Penn State finished their regular season 11-1 and at the top of the North Region playoff.

Ohio State (No. 10 BCS)

Ohio State finished their regular season 10-2 and clinched the No. 3 seed.

Ball State (No. 15 BCS)

Ball State plays for the MAC Championship against Western Michigan this week. With a victory the undefeated Cardinals should have the No. 2 seed in the North Region if they stay ranked above Cincinnati.

Cincinnati (No. 16 BCS)

Cincinnati has already clinched the Big East after West Virginia's loss to Pittsburgh last week. The Bearcats will jump to the No. 2 seed with a win over Syracuse and finishing above Ball State.

Western Michigan (6-1 MAC)

Western Michigan plays Ball State this weekend for the MAC champion. With a victory, Western Michigan will gain the No. 4 seed in the North Region.

How it played out

West Region: Oregon State lost while USC and Boise State won.

1 USC (11-1)

2 Utah (12-0)

3 Boise St (12-0)

4 TCU (10-2)

South Region: Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech all won. Oklahoma jumped Texas. Tulsa won Conference USA

1 Oklahoma (11-1)

2 Texas (11-1)

3 Texas Tech (11-1)

4 Tulsa (10-2)

East Region: Ga Tech defeated Georgia and won the ACC. Florida and Alabama both won.

1 Alabama (12-0)

2 Georgia Tech (9-3)

3 Florida (11-1)

4 Troy (8-4)

North Region: Ball State defeated Western Michigan and finished ahead of Cincinnati

1 Penn State (11-1)

2 Ball State (12-0)

3 Ohio State (10-2)

4 Cincinnati (10-2)

Example Bowl Series Games


USC vs. Penn State


Texas vs. Florida


Oklahoma vs. Alabama

ORANGE: ACC vs. Big East

Georgia Tech vs. Cincinnati

FIESTA: Big Ten/Pac-10 vs. At Large in second round

Ohio State vs. Utah

CHAMPIONSHIP: Rose Winner vs. Sugar Winner

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